Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently declared Israel’s military incursion into Gaza to be “worse than the Holocaust.” Ironically, Abbas’ “doctoral thesis” was a work of Holocaust denial, so it’s not clear what insult was being insinuated by comparing Israel’s actions to something that he claims never happened (perhaps it was actually meant as a compliment?).
But it’s not just terror supporting Holocaust deniers who play the Hitler card. Right here at home, Robert Byrd, Rick Santorum, Howard Dean, Tom Delay, and others have all compared their political opponents to the cartoonish, mustachioed German dictator. Hillary Duff, Bill Clinton, the Pope, Martha Stewart, and people who smoke have all been compared to Hitler. Strangely enough, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe once compared himself to the Fuhrer. Global warming has been called a modern-day Holocaust. And who can forget when PETA equated the consumption of chicken to the murder of 6 million Jews.
The number one rule of debating should be that the first person to compare the other side’s views to that of the Nazis, or even to invoke the Holocaust in any way, automatically loses the debate. Unfortunately, anyone who browses internet chat rooms can testify that these emotional arguments are commonplace. Godwin’s Law, already promulgated in the early 90′s, postulates that: “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” But even long before internet chat rooms, as early as 1950, philosopher Leo Strauss decried what he called the “reductio ad Hitlerum” debating fallacy. Comparing someone to Hitler has become as mundane as saying “you stink.” It has become stripped of any meaning or oomph it may have once carried. It is a simple way of avoiding nuance and shades of gray and invoking the emotional comfort of raw nerve hyperbole. And it’s downright lame.
I am therefore using this forum to officially call for a 100 year moratorium on using the words “Hitler,” Holocaust,” or “Nazis” in the context of debate, unless actually referencing those things themselves without attempt at comparison. Let’s treat it like a game of taboo. Let’s start an online petition to this effect soon, and anyone who signs on binds his/herself to play this game of taboo for the next 100 years (or as soon as said comparisons go out of style, whichever comes first).
WHO’S WITH ME??